After the driving test: the truth about newly qualified drivers

Young female driver eyes looking to camers in rear view mirror.

Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 12 April 2021

This blog gives some of the reasons why 1 in 5 newly qualified drivers crashes in the year after passing their practical driving test. We give top tips to stay safe after passing your test.

Greetings, loyal readers!

Here’s a grim statistic to kick off this week’s post: according to our colleagues at THINK! (website), 1 in 5 drivers crashes in the year after passing their driving test. That’s a staggering amount when you consider the hard graft that goes into passing. So, what’s happening? And can *you* do anything about it?

Before we discuss anything else, have a think about this

  • If you’ve recently passed your test, how did you drive the first time you went out on your own?
  • If you have not passed your test, how do you think you’ll drive the first time you go out on your own?

Write down your immediate reactions to these questions – it’ll be important later.

What did you come up with? You may have said nervous, but I’m willing to bet that you also said you were/would be very, very careful.

Motoring with intent

So, if novice drivers start out with the best of intentions, there must nothing to worry about? Sadly, the best intentions are often like new resolutions: easy to make and easy to break. According to the boffins, newly qualified drivers are

  • inexperienced – good hazard perception skills require real practice – things improve after about 1,000 miles of solo driving (ROSPA website)
  • overconfident – newly licenced drivers often become overconfident in their abilities soon after passing their driving tests. Studies of novice drivers have shown that they’re inclined to be excessively confident in their ability to predict the behaviour of other road users
  • easily distracted – we’ve blogged about this topic before, but it’s relevant here. In-car entertainment systems, mobile phones, sat navs and passengers all have the potential to divert attention from the road
  • tempted to take drink and/or drugs and drive – another topic that’s had the blog treatment,drink and drugs (GOV.UK) are the sworn enemy of safe driving. Not only do they seriously affect your reaction times, they could cost you a whole lot of money – and potentially your freedom (GOV.UK) – if you’re caught driving under their influence. You would also have to live with the consequences of your behaviour. This might be killing or seriously injuring other people, even your friends.

If you’re wondering whether you’ll ever give in to temptation, then imagine how *easy* driving can feel. You’ve had a few weeks’ worth of trouble-free motoring and everything is going smoothly. You start to relax, drive with one hand on the wheel, forget to signal maybe stop checking your mirrors. Your mates call round and you pop out for a few beers then drive home. You’re in the groove now and nothing can touch you … until it does. That’s a typical example of how overconfidence can creep into your driving. You need to guard against it, as it has a track record of leading to serious consequences.

Follow your dreams

So, what can you do? Well this is where our thought exercise comes in. If you find yourself slipping into bad habits, cast your mind back to your first couple of solo drives. Think about how much effort you put into scanning for hazards, obeying road signs and maintaining good driving technique. You wanted to be safe, you wanted to be a good driver. Use your memories as an inspiration every time you get behind the wheel – not the feeling nervous or trying too hard, but the commitment to safety that you had when you started your driving life.

There are other things you can do too

  • Dodge the temptation to use your mobile phone by switching it off and putting it in the glove compartment.
  • If you’re on a night out with your friends, use public transport or choose a ‘designated driver’ before you leave. Never get into a car if you suspect the driver has been drinking or taking drugs.
  • Do not be shy about asking your instructor for additional lessons.
  • Check out Pass Plus (GOV.UK).

Above all, reflect on your driving at the end of every journey. Being able to reflect on your thoughts and emotional reactions will provide important feedback and help you to improve.

Driving safety

Of course, this is not the whole story. You can also visit our shop for more great resources, including The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills.

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